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F e e d Y o u r C h i l d ’ s B r a i n A F a s t e r M o r e F o c u s e d B r a i n o n F o o d
As a pediatrician, I am commonly asked questions such as: How can I get my child to focus better? How can I improve my child’s mood? How can I help my child do better in school?
Bio: Author and speaker, Dr. Teresa Fuller is an integrative holistic pediatri- cian who received both her M.D. and Ph.D. at Howard University. Dr. T is the Executive Director of A Healthy Tomorrow, PA, an organi- zation that empowers families with lifestyle-based solutions to achieve optimal wellness. She is the author of Change 1 Thing: A Doctor's Guide to Permanent Weight Loss, Disease Prevention, and a Lifetime of Incre- dible Health.
What parents are really asking boils down to this: How can I make my child’s brain function better? The answer to that question can fill a book, but one major strategy for a faster more focused brain is a nutrient-rich diet for your child. Why? Because it takes a lot of different vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to fuel our chil- dren’s brains. While dozens of nutrients are important to brain health, some are found to be especially critical. Read on for five superstar nutrients you want to serve on your child’s plate. Zinc is an essential nutrient from the earliest stages of brain development. Zinc is involved in the brain’s nerve cell communication, growth, and specialization. The defi- ciency of zinc has deleterious effects on long-term brain health. The deficiency of zinc can have a negative impact on brain function in infancy, adolescence, and adulthood. Good sources of zinc include beef, lamb, sesame and pumpkin seeds, and lentils. Iron deficiency is the most common micronutrient defi- ciency in children. The importance of ensuring adequate iron levels for pregnant women and for early childhood has been well established. Iron deficiency in the develop- ing fetus and in the first two years of life is associated with decreases in cognitive and social-emotional development. By contrast, the needed supplementation of iron leads to improvement in concentration, intelligence, memory, psychomotor skills, and scholastic achievement. While meat usually comes tomind as a good source of iron, many plant foods also provide iron in abundant amounts such as legumes, including lentils and soybeans, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach. Choline is a lesser-known brain health nutrient. Choline is an important chemical in the structure and function of the brain. Choline is important for the growth and func-
tioning of the early brain, specifically in the first one thou- sand days of life (gestation through the first two years). The effects of adequate choline intake in early life has last- ing effects into adulthood, including improved cognitive function and prevention of age-related memory decline. Unfortunately, it is estimated that 90% of Americans fall below the adequate intake level for choline. Good food sources of choline include eggs, shellfish and salmon, beef or chicken liver, collard greens, wheat germ, and soybeans. B vitamins, most notably folate, B6, and B12 are critical for brain health. Brain cells, like other cells of the body, need energy in order to function optimally. The brain, which accounts for only 2% of body weight, consumes a whop- ping 20%of our body’s total energy expenditure. The vari- ous B vitamins, of which there are eight in total, are neces- sary for generating energy in our cells whereas a deficiency will come at the expense of healthy brain function. B vitamins are found in a wide variety of foods including leafy green vegetables, legumes, seafood, and potatoes. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. You’ve likely heard about the major role that omega-3 fatty acids play in brain health. Studies have found that omega-3s improve memory andmood. On the contrary, a deficiency of omega-3s increases the risk of dyslexia, ADHD, depression, dementia, and Alzheimer's. One study found that supplementing 6- to 13-year-olds who had ADHDwith omega fatty acids for up to 1 year led to Improvements in spelling, attention, hyperactivity, cogni- tive problems, and reduced oppositional behavior. In addition to fish, omega-3s are found in flaxseeds, walnuts, soy, and brussels sprouts. This is by nomeans an exhaustive list of nutrients for brain health. I could have also listed vitamin A, vitamin D, vita- min E, iodine, magnesium, andmultiple others. When M
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